Fifty years of hurt, mocked by the world - but can perfect England actually win Euro 2016?

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Roy Hodgson's Three Lions enjoyed a flawless qualification campaign and now head into the tournament in France with high expectations; can they actually win it, though?


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'Joe Hart throws it out to Danny Rose, who finds Jack Wilshere in midfield. The Arsenal man turns his marker and slides it through to Harry Kane who cuts inside and places his shot past Hugo Lloris. What a finish from the Tottenham striker to win the European Championship for England against France in their own backyard!'

Those football script writers have been pitching such scenarios for several years now. Fifty years and counting to be precise. As a sporting nation England are an immense force when it comes to support, infrastructure and financial power. Since the famous 1966 World Cup win, the England national football team have sparked a plethora of emotions out of their fans; hope, disappointment and, of course, shame.

Red cards, missed penalties and goals that did cross the line. Supporting England is probably like having a life-long relationship with the woman of your dreams - even if it means she'll break your heart over and over again. Saturday's game against Russia will provide an insight into just how far Roy Hodgson's side have progressed since introducing the likes of Dele Alli, John Stones and Premier League champion Jamie Vardy into the squad.

The influx of young English talent isn't a coincidence and hasn't caught anyone by surprise, none more so than Hodgson who has given opportunities to the likes of 18-year-old Marcus Rashford in recent games. There remains a level of optimism among Three Lions' supporters which can be traced all the way back to Euro 1996. The excitement of being involved in a tournament so close to home has seen thousands of fans travel to Marseille for the opener against Russia - and many more will join them across the Channel over the next few weeks.

England's serene training camp and hotel in the quaint town of Chantilly, 24 miles from Paris, has given the players peaceful surroundings at a time when composure is needed. Sport is all about answering the right questions when under pressure and the likes of Alli and Kane will be desperate to replicate their Tottenham form for their country after taking part in one of the greatest domestic campaigns ever seen. Those two came so close to winning the Premier League, and they both have unfinished business heading into Euro 2016.

Then there's Hodgson. The oldest, most experienced manager among the 24 teams at Euro 2016 can also speak five different languages. He's immersed in football culture and at a time when teams are choosing perceived charisma over class, Hodgson is a breath of fresh air. Indeed, England don't play the most attractive form of football on the planet but the 68-year-old instils a level of belief in his players and most importantly, he cares.

"I’m English, I believe in English football, I care about the England team", Hodgson told The Telegraph in April. 

"Whoever is coaching the team from after the Euros and onwards and even way beyond that, I shall always be hoping that he does well, and always punting for them.”

The other questions hanging over the England camp are plain and simple: are Hodgson's team good enough? It is the youngest England squad in a competitive tournament for 58 years (25 years and 10 months on average) and history tells us that the youngest teams have performed consistently in the knockout tournaments over the past 20 years. Russia and Germany's semi-final appearances in 2008 and 2012 respectively will remind everyone that experience doesn't necessarily win you trophies.

Fifty years of hurt has never stopped those England supporters dreaming. Belief is key and if the trusted blend of youth and experience can power Hodgson's men through the group stage, fans will begin to believe football could be about to come home once again.

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